Illinois State student Kirsten Heteji shares how gifts made to the Alcorn Family Ceramic Scholarship made an impact on her practice:

Kristen Heteji headshot

Kirsten Heteji is pursuing an M.F.A. in ceramics

Receiving the Alcorn Family Ceramic Scholarship provided an educational experience beyond the Illinois State University campus. By attending the workshop, “The Object in Context,” at the Ox-Bow School of Art in Michigan, I wanted to learn about conceptual perspectives and techniques for referencing objects in domestic spaces.

The instructor Anders Ruhwald, an artist whose work I had been admiring for a long time, prompted students to create for a site-specific location. This challenge helped me rethink how art objects can live within a space. To be near Lake Michigan, enjoying nature, and in a community of like-minded individuals made for a fulfilling and unforgettable experience.

Having the freedom to make art outside of traditional academia spaces prepared me for my last year of grad school. Creating multiple fully developed ideas enabled new directions in my work, while allowing me to better understand myself as a maker.

My work has taken a new direction in the exploration of object and body. In rendering everyday items, I try to think of ways to represent mundane objects in awkward, funny, intriguing, or even disturbing ways. Body for me is literally the clay material and how it holds touch and softness, leaving evidence of the actions of making in the final forms.

Instead of recreating pre-existing objects, this workshop helped me to think of ways to react to things already in a specific place with these ideas in mind. I had created a series of work that was collecting and responding to the negative space of objects within a bedroom by pushing hollow clay pillow forms into corners, handles and edges. The clay becomes the conduit that connects body to place, drawing comparison between the grain of wood to the lines in my hand.

I love going to different art centers around the country to expand my education and meet other people from different art communities. With the help of the Alcorn Scholarship, I experienced a group-generated environment open for conversations about making and approaches to material which enhanced my conceptual practice.

Make an impact during Birds Give Back. Make your gift to the Alcorn Family Ceramic Scholarship.